As 2004 is nearing an end, major local-based Taiwan Church News (TCN) announced that it will discontinue publication of its 30 year-old English edition newspaper titled the Occasional Bulletin. The TCN is closely affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) and has published newspapers since 1885.
The Occasional Bulletin (OB) itself has been in operations since 1984. PCT spokesmen announced that limited online English releases will continue to be posted on Worldwide Faith Network (www.wfn.org), Ecunet (www.ecunet.org), and the PCT General Assembly (www.pct.org.tw).
So far, the discontinuation of the newspaper has met some criticism. Vivian Su, former OB editor, criticized the decision TCN made saying, “I can’t imagine the PCT without Occasional Bulletin, the [only] public face in English.” Su had been amongst those who raised OB to a reputable status in the 1990s.
The OB began its decades-old history in 1984 when the Taiwan Church News staff received its first foreign editor Gary Hoff, a missionary affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Hoff and Helen Kuo, a TCN staff member, began publication using an archaic typewriter and photocopier.
In 1993, Hoff left Taiwan leaving responsibilities for running the newspaper under staff editor Vivian Su. Su continued development on the OB standard format and content, giving the newspaper a newfound sense of professionalism. Su later left her post in 1999 for personal reasons. The newspaper suffered under a lack of any apparent leadership, only surviving through updates posted by guest columnists and commentators.
In September 2000, OB received its second foreign editor named David Alexander whom was associated with the Reformed Church of America (RCA). Under his consultation, TCN staff was able to revive OB to a new reputable status. Alexander left in 2003 after the RCA recalled him from his missions work in Taiwan to return to the United States to be a theological educator. Alexander’s resignation left a vacuum that could not be quickly filled.
With the growing popularity for Christian news organizations to post articles via email on the Worldwide Faith Network and Ecu.net, the Taiwan Church News decided to post a limited number of translated articles each month via the two online news agencies. This move seemed to TCN leadership as a cost effective method that will cut back US $10,000 per year in publication costs.
Individuals like Su, however, have criticized this decision claiming that the OB was as important a newspaper as TCN – deserving further online and offline development. “I will always remember it as the bridge that provides insight and understanding into the Taiwan’s people, society and religion. ‘Occasional’ though it was, insignificant it was not,” Su said.
After the final newspaper print, the OB subscription list will be turned over to the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) administration. Decisions to continue or discontinue the publication will exclusively fall under PCT discretion.